CHATHAM, NJ - In a scene that was characterized as "very unusual" by planner Michael Tobia, the potential developers of the Dixiedale Farm property gave a second presentation on its "conceptual plan" to build 54 townhomes on the 30-acre tract at the Chatham Township Committee meeting held Wednesday night.

After a lengthy discussion, which mirrored the same concerns brought up by residents at the October planning board meeting, the ordinance to rezone the Dixiedale Farm property from single-family to multi-family was introduced in a 5-0 vote by the Township Committee.

Chatham Township Attorney Albert Cruz explained that this was a "procedural" step and that no plan was being approved by the introduction of the rezoning ordinance.

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The ordinance now goes back to the planning board for determination if the rezoning is "inconsistent" with the township's master plan. Regardless of the determination by the planning board, the Chatham Township Committee will consider adoption of the rezoning ordinance on Dec. 14.

Chatham Township Planner Francis J. Banisch gives his reasoning why this is good plan for the township and its resident

At the Oct. 16 Chatham Township Planning Board meeting, a similar presentation on the plan to build on the Dixiedale Farm property was made and discussed with the public before the rezoning was recommended for approved and sent to the Township Committee.

The unusual part of the process was that residents of both Chatham Township and Chatham Borough were given a chance to hold an informal "public hearing" on the plan that has yet to be formally introduced to the planning board. The same scene played out at the committee meeting Wednesday night when residents held a "public hearing" with comments on the ordinance that had yet to be introduced.

Karen Swartz speaks on the behalf of residents who are concerned with the increased traffic that the townhomes will bring to Hillside Avenue and River Road

Two conceptual plans were presented at the Oct. 16 planning board meeting on the development of Dixiedale Farm into 25 duplexes and four additional units, and the contingency plan to build a three-story building that would accommodate 24 Affordable Housing units near the Skate Park on Southern Boulevard.

The deal to sell the Christmas Tree farm located between Hillside Avenue and River Road to developer Sterling Properties, in partnership with Sun Homes, would build 25 duplexes, preserve the iconic mansion on the property and add four units and a clubhouse. Land-use lawyer Douglas Henshaw said duplexes planned are projected to sell for $1.2 to $1.5 million each.

In exchange for the rezoning of the Dixiedale property for development, Sterling Properties and Sun Homes have offered to build the affordable housing development planned on the 3.8 acres owned by the Chatham Township near the police station and Skate Park on Southern Boulevard.

Chatham Township is still litigating its third round of Fair Share Housing in Superior Court and the sale of the Dixiedale property has been held up by the zoning for a year and a half.

The Affordable Housing complex on Southern Boulevard cannot be finalized until the Department of Environmental Protection issues a Letter of Interpretation (LOI) in regard to the environmental impact.

In the meantime, Chatham Borough residents from Hillside Avenue and Chatham Township residents from the 900-unit condominium complexes on River Road came to both presentations and voiced their concerns about increased traffic. 

Hillside Avenue residents are so concerned about the "rural" feel of Hillside Avenue being ruined that they've approached Chatham Borough Mayor Bruce Harris about possible safeguards that could be taken in regard to increased traffic.

Hillside resident Mike Chidlovsky suggested during the public portion of the meeting that Hillside Avenue could be converted into a Cul-de-sac where Hillside Avenue intersects with Woods Lane. Chidlovsky said the idea came up in the residents' meeting with Mayor Harris.

Longtime Chatham Township resident gives his historical perspective on the Dixiedale Farm during the public portion of the meeting

Bailey Brower Jr. said it wasn't a matter of whether the Dixiedale Farm was going to be redeveloped, it was when